by Nick Delgado
Guam - Local law enforcement and education officials are stepping up efforts to prevent crimes being committed by Guam's youth. The Guam Police Department's Juvenile Investigations Section has 800 pending cases. GPD Spokesperson Officer A.J. Balajadia says those numbers have been consistent for the past four years.
But still there is a problem police notice with crimes being committed by island youth. Department of Youth Affairs Superintendent Greg San Miguel told KUAM News, "In the past months, we've been seeing a lot of burglary through the public school system, we are currently holding at least ten of them pending the process of the family courts."
San Miguel says the Mangilao facility on average has about 50 clients. While he says they are working with the Attorney General's Office on ways to keep the population down, San Miguel admits youth crime may only get worse. "Statistics will show that during the summer the criminal activity increases, its like that and so I don't see the population going down anytime," he noted.
Several youth crimes, GPD notes, include drugs, criminal sexual conduct, residential and vehicle burglaries, thefts and criminal mischief. But what has Department of Education Superintendent Dr. Nerissa Bretania Underwood disturbed is the increase police say of marijuana and alcohol reported on elementary campuses. "I do know that principal have expressed concern about the types of behavior and disciplinary problems that they have observed at the elementary level," she explained. "But what we are doing as a department is we are doing is we are actually extending our character education to the elementary."
Dr. Underwood says that means they teach and reinforce positive behavior to students. However, she says educators can't do it on their own. "The whole notion on just depending on the schools to solve everything has to stop because the challenges, we have challenges with resources and we need the partnership with the families," she added.
However, Public Safety Committee Chair Senator Adolpho Palacios feels parents should be allowed to openly discipline their children to prevent them from getting into trouble. "With the American culture imposed upon this island, now parents are afraid to discipline their children because the children would just report for child abuse and you are going to have to defend yourself of course if you go there, I'd like to see the restoration to some degree of corporal punishment," said the senator.
In the meantime, police also say parents need to be held accountable, and that discipline should be consistent and harsher for repeat offenders. Officer Balajadia also points out that statistically, GPD has seen a decrease in youth crimes being committed by Chamorros and Filipinos, among other nationalities. He does say, however, there has been a significant spike of youth crimes being committed by nationals from the Freely Associated States of Micronesia.